Sunday, March 18, 2007

Northern Ireland Poker Championships Called Off Under Last-Minute Pressure

Weirdness occurs on the other side of the pond, as well. While many outlets have been reporting on the Indiana private-club game that netted arrests of several dozen poker players (including an off-duty cop), that one doesn't offer anything new. But something did unfold this morning that's rarely seen --- the cancellation of an entire national championship under the pressure of authorities.

Players preparing to begin the Northern Ireland championships were dismayed to find the event cancelled less than an hour before play was to begin, with Irish police threatening the casino with closure --- citing lack of proper permits --- should the event go forward. It's interesting because this "Northern Ireland" championship had already been moved out of Northern Ireland to just south of the border with Ireland (not the Northern version), precisely because the legality of the event within Northern Ireland was an unsure thing.

Unfortunately, the replacement site didn't work so well either. The alternate venue, the City North Hotel not far from Dublin, was all set to go, until Gardai (Irish polish officers) arrived to put the kibosh on the festivities. Players were given a £100 bonus over the refund of their £1,100 entry fee, which still doesn't take into account all the lost time and travel expenses for the players.

Most accounts say that the hotel lacked the proper permits for the event, but Nicky O'Donnell over at asserts in his write-up that North Irish authorities may have reached across the border in an attempt to stop the action. (I've worked with Nicky; he's more than a wee bit Irish himself.) That assertion has yet to be confirmed, although Nicky did note the recent breakup of a major Northern Ireland poker club also fits the pattern.

However, it appears that the viability of Irish poker events is now up for debate. Who says the UK is the current bastion of freedom regarding poker? Add this event to the arrest and conviction of the owner of a London club/restaurant serving a healthy dose of poker, and it's clear that the issue of poker's legality is far from decided.

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